Until recently, the name Charlie Kushner likely evoked images of minimum-security prisons. Today, thanks to his son Jared’s fortuitous marriage to Ivanka Trump, the convicted felon and real estate developer enjoys newfound access to the country’s most powerful decision-makers—and its deepest pockets.
The son of holocaust survivors, Kushner grew up in New Jersey where he transformed his father’s construction business into a real estate empire. He eventually leveraged his wealth to become a major player in Democratic politics, donating more than $1.5 million to former New Jersey governor James McGreevey and his various campaign committees. But the elder Kushner’s glory days seemingly were cut short in 2004, when then-U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Chris Christie charged Kushner with tax evasion. After both his sister and brother agreed to testify against him, Kushner personally hired a prostitute to seduce his sister’s husband, videotaped the encounter, and sent the tape to his sister. Kushner ultimately pled guilty not only to tax fraud, but also to making illegal campaign contributions and witness tampering. He served 14 months in a federal prison.
In the wake of Charlie’s conviction, his son Jared stepped in to run the family business, Kushner Companies. Although many suspect that Charlie exercised significant behind-the-scenes control, the business couldn’t afford the reputational risk of placing a convicted felon on the company letterhead. Indeed, many lenders—likely following internal company policies that prohibit lending to convicted felons—informally blacklisted the elder Kushner.
But with Trump in charge, and the younger Kushner acting as the new President’s consigliere, Charlie’s felony fraud conviction has become an afterthought. Sources suggest that lenders are itching to work with Charlie, and he appears well-positioned to call in his various chits from across the real estate industry. Some even speculate that Charlie’s Trump-driven financial windfall will be bolstered by a presidential pardon, which would permit Kushner to bid on government projects. Whatever happens, Charlie’s opportunities will receive intense scrutiny—scrutiny warranted not only by his cozy relationship with the White House, but also by his rap sheet.
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